7 Keys to Being Extraordinary
Being extraordinary isn’t for everyone.
But it isn’t out of reach for anyone either. It’s not reserved for the rich, the famous, the beautiful, or any other group or demographic.
Anyone can be extraordinary, if that’s what they desire.
But the truth is, most people don’t. Most people are content with mediocrity.
Because being anything more than average takes hard work, dedication, and the willingness to experience constant disappointments and failures. Most people aren’t prepared to put up with that. They prefer a life of comfort and security.
This is why children are such a godsend for many people.
Because in the absence of any extraordinary achievement in one’s own life, there’s always the option of achieving vicariously through their children. Someone might not have personally done anything noteworthy in their life, but their kids certainly still have a chance.
And they’ll be able to take some credit for that, right?
The reality is, that’s how life is for a lot of people.
Now, if it sounds like I have a problem with people having kids, I really don’t. I think that being a parent and raising kids well is a very challenging and highly commendable thing. It’s one of life’s most noble callings, in fact.
What I do have a problem with is people resting on their laurels as a parent to avoid feeling the need to strive to do anything noteworthy themselves. I mean, having kids is great, it really is. In a way, you live on through them once you leave this world.
But it doesn’t mean that your life stops mattering.
Whether or not you have children, what you achieve in life on your own merits is still important. To you, to the world, and to your children.
Yes, to your children too. Because you serve as a role model to them, so you should be showing them how to strive to achieve great things in life, not the other way around. If having an above-average or extraordinary life is something that’s important to you, then work on your own life as well as helping them build theirs.
So whether you’re a parent or not, here are 7 keys to being extraordinary in your lifetime . . .
1. Push the envelope
Without realizing it, you have been subconsciously imposing limits on yourself since about the age of five. We all have. And each and every year since, those limits have been gradually increasing in number and getting more and more stringent.
For most people, somewhere during adult life, they finally reach critical mass and the person gives up. Not necessarily on life per se. But on the belief that they can ever be anything more than an average person in their lifetime.
Just another forgettable face in the crowd.
For the vast majority of people, it’s simply a normal part of the way that they’re conditioned by life. Part of growing up and of growing older, if you like. And that’s the tragedy: that this whole process is so common, and that so few people ever even see anything wrong with it.
Like it’s a natural part of life.
But there’s nothing natural about living in a self-imposed prison created in your own mind.
Limits, like fear, is often an illusion.
When you think about your “envelope”, or the realm that defines what is and isn’t possible for you, therefore, it’s important to recognize that it isn’t real. It’s just an aberration built up through years of lies told to you by negative people and of your mind trying to protect you from repeating uncomfortable or painful experiences.
That’s why it’s sometimes also called your “comfort zone”.
And you have to break out of it, for your own sake.
To the degree we're not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control of us than we have over ourselves.
You’ll never, ever have a life that’s even approaching extraordinary while you’re comfortable. You’ll have a safe, predictable, ordinary life. Nothing more.
You need to push past the confines of your envelope every chance you get, to prove to yourself and the world that the limits that seem so real in your head are in fact weak illusions.
They mean nothing.
Always be prepared to think outside the box. Because whatsoever constrains your thinking also constrains what you will dare to attempt and therefore what you can ultimately achieve in your life.
Pushing the envelope never comes easy. Sometimes you’ll have absolutely no idea how you can possibly achieve something. But it doesn’t matter. Have a shot anyhow. You’ll figure it out when you have to.
You've got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.
When you have to figure out how to do something, that’s where all of your focus will be – on how to do it. Otherwise it will be on all the reasons you can’t do it.
Which scenario do you think will be more conducive to achieving greatness?
2. Embrace failure
One of the great injustices in life is the fact that we’re taught from a very young age that failure is a dirty word.
From our earliest school days, we learn that life is all about passing exams and not failing, at all costs. And that’s a great shame. Because as you just discovered in the previous point, your subconscious mind actively influences your behavior to make you avoid anything painful, or potentially painful.
So to avoid experiencing the pain of failure, it compels you to not try anything that carries with it some risk of failure. In other words, it holds you back from trying anything.
The problem with all this, of course, is that great success can only come from risking failure. The two go hand in hand.
Avoid one, and you avoid the other.
Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
If something is so easy that there’s no possibility of failing, then what value is there in succeeding? Imagine being a world champion in some sport, where your toughest opponent is a ninety year old blind woman in a wheelchair. How proud would you be about that?
Not much to brag about, is it?
What makes being a world champion such a big deal is the level of the competition you have to beat. And the tougher they are to beat, the more it means.
Think about that.
A champion shouldn’t hate her opponents for being tough and trying so hard to make her fail. She should love them for it. Because it’s their greatness that gives her the opportunity to be even greater. And the more they push her and cause her to fail, over and over, the bigger the prize they’re holding within her reach, there for the taking. If she wants it badly enough.
If your competition is slack, there’s nothing they can do for you. By not offering a big potential for failure, they deny you the opportunity for any meaningful success.
It’s the same with everything in life.
Anything that’s a big deal is hard. The price of admission is steep. The road is long. And it carries with it an inherent risk of failure.
Failure and success aren’t polar opposites like we thought they were when we were kids. They’re not black and white.
They travel hand in hand. They’re two sides of the same coin.
So failure isn’t something to avoid, but rather something to embrace. It’s a necessary part of the road to success.
I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
Getting over the whole notion of failure being a bad thing is one of the most powerful steps you can take to becoming extraordinary.
Because every failure you experience, provided that you learn from it, is nothing more than another step towards ultimate success.
Don’t let it discourage you.
Giving up is the only sure way to fail.
Because while you keep getting up and trying again, you’re never truly failing.
3. Blaze your own trail
Sure, it’s possible to achieve a good measure of success in life by copying and improving on what others have already done before you. If fact, that may well even be the easiest and quickest way to go about succeeding at something.
But at the end of the day, to be truly extraordinary you need to be a leader, not a follower.
This ties in somewhat with the previous point.
Following others is a great strategy for avoiding failure. You can pretty much see the situation in front of you, and all you need to do it improve on it a little.
Blazing your own trail, on the other hand, is fraught with danger. The learning curve is steep. You more often than not fail over and over.
You’ll most likely also be ridiculed.
But if you keep going, and you stay true to yourself, the payoff is big.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Look at any great rock band, for example. And I mean truly great. Who are they?
Are they the ones who play other people’s songs? Never!
Are they the ones who follow the latest trends, and produce songs that are most likely to be commercially popular? These guys may enjoy some temporary success, but pretty quickly become has-beens.
No, the truly extraordinary, great bands produce music from the heart. They don’t try to follow trends. In fact, they create their own trends, without even intending to.
Now of course, staying true to yourself and blazing your own trail doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be extraordinary. But you’ll never be extraordinary without it. Because being extraordinary relies on individuality and uniqueness.
Find something that you absolutely love doing. And then get to love the way you do it. That's the uniqueness of all of us. That's it.
Look at any individual or group in history who are or were extraordinary in some way. They always have a story and a presence that’s uniquely their own. And no one ever draws comparisons to anyone before them.
History is littered with examples of people who at one point in their life were simply “doing their thing”, and then somehow the world shifted and came to the consensus that they’re in fact extraordinary – just for doing what it is that they do.
Don’t try to be one of those people!
Because if you do try, you’re not being genuine. Greatness is always genuine and authentic.
Be yourself. Stay true to yourself. Don’t give a damn what others think or expect of you.
And if you do it well enough, you’ll be extraordinary.
4. Harness the power of teamwork
People who are extraordinary in their own right don’t live in a bubble. They always have great people around them guiding them, supporting them, advising them, teaching them, keeping them in touch with reality, and so on.
So in truth, everything extraordinary in life is about teamwork.
I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.
People who insist on operating as a one-person-show don’t realize how much more could be achieved as a team. Even if they’re really great at what they do.
It doesn’t matter.
When people work as a team, synergy comes into play. That means that the end result is much greater than the sum of the individual results.
It’s almost as if magic happens.
Working with other people allows you to be in sync, or in harmony, with the world. And the world will encourage your rise and your success.
We all know someone in life for whom everything just seems to flow. That’s what it’s like to live in harmony.
Not working with other people but instead choosing to isolate yourself from them creates a dissonance with the world around you. You become like a bad note in a chord. The world won’t embrace you and lift you up, but rather stubbornly resist your progress.
It's all about people. It's about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges.
So always be open to interacting and making connections with others.
Not with the intention of getting something out of them. The world sees through that “what’s in it for me” mentality, and it won’t get you far.
But rather, just out of genuine openness and willingness to share with them.
Always remember, anyone who isn’t your direct competition has the potential to be a great ally.
5. Be prepared to work your butt off
Let’s face it, these days we live in a society that expects quick, easy results.
Some things never change, though. And one of those things is that success takes hard work. It has to be earned.
Always has, always will.
Being extraordinary means standing above the crowd. That means doing what others don’t. What they’re not willing to do.
Some people really just don’t get it. They think it’s all about luck, or some big “break”. Sure, sometimes someone can stumble across a golden opportunity though dumb luck. It happens.
But they still need to do something with it. And if they don’t, they lose it and someone else will take it.
More often than not though, opportunities are created. Through hard work.
And then success and extraordinary achievements are created through those opportunities. And through more hard work.
A lot of times, opportunities go unrecognized. Because as I said, people expect success to fall into their lap.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
It’s easy to look at someone who’s achieved extraordinary things in their life and make the mistake of assuming that it came easy to them. Or that they were just lucky.
But extraordinary and successful people can often make what they do look easy, when really it isn’t.
The other thing is that you only hear about them once they’ve become successful. You never see what they had to go through to get where they are.
I worked half my life to be an overnight success, and still it took me by surprise.
They say that one of the fundamental rules of success is to find your passion in life and focus on it. That’s very sound advice. Because when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, it never seems like hard work.
And you’re able to just keep going and going.
So find what it is you’re passionate about. Then work your butt off, and stick to it. No one can say for sure when you’ll finally reach your ultimate goal, but there’s no surer way of getting there.
6. Be humbold
Wait a minute . . . What? Is that even a word?
Actually, it’s a combination of two words . . . humble, and bold.
So how is it possible to be both humble and bold?
Well, you can be bold within yourself, in terms of your dreams and aspirations, and your confidence in being able to achieve them, yet humble towards other people.
Being bold within yourself means daring to dream big.
Let’s face it, you can hardly ever become extraordinary by thinking small. You have to have the courage and the boldness to strive for big achievements. And to believe with every fiber of your being that they’re possible for you.
Otherwise, even if you’re successful in achieving all your goals, you still won’t have accomplished anything noteworthy.
Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.
So then, why is it important to be humble towards others?
Well, I’m sure there will be some disagreement over this one. After all, there are numerous examples of extraordinary people whose persona was anything but humble. Examples? How about Muhammad Ali, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West?
But there are two huge benefits to being humble when striving for greatness.
First of all, as you know well by now, the road to success is littered with failures. And when you’re someone who’s cocky, arrogant, or brash, then people LOVE to see you fail. And when you do, they LOVE to kick you when you’re down.
Those sort of blows can literally stop you in your tracks.
That’s a lesson that Ronda Rousey is currently learning the hard way.
When you’re humble, on the other hand, and you stumble, people cut you some slack. Many even go out of their way to help you back up. Because when people see you toiling away towards big things quietly, they can’t help but admire you in some way. And deep down, they’re rooting for you because they know you deserve to be successful.
The second benefit to being humble is that when you do finally achieve something extraordinary, it’s far more impressive to the world if you haven’t made a big song and dance about it.
Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.
People who talk a big game are expected to do big things. Either that or they wear egg on their face. Those who do extraordinary things quietly, on the other hand, become true inspirations.
7. Serve a higher cause
A person can only achieve so much greatness for herself and herself alone. Because in the grand scheme of things, a single individual is miniscule.
But not only that, they’re finite as well. None of us lives forever.
A cause, on the other hand, has no such limitations. Of either size or longevity.
To be truly extraordinary then, you need to represent something far bigger than yourself. That will allow you to reach and affect more people, and your achievements to live on after you’re gone.
You need to serve others and the world as a whole in some way.
That doesn’t mean that you need to do charity work or be self-sacrificing. It simply means that whatever it is that you choose to do in your life, it should in some way enrich others.
It may be by making their lives easier, by improving their health, or by teaching them. These are obvious ways. But it can also be by uplifting them, making them happy, inspiring them, giving them hope, acting as a role model, and so on.
Extraordinary people cause positive ripples that spread out throughout wider humanity.
In the beginning, their goals may be simple and personal. Maybe even selfish and egotistical in some cases. But once they’re on their way to greatness they understand that their true calling to greatness is to use their position and their talents or skills to touch others.